Karl Ernst von Baer (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Baer gained his greatest fame early in his career through his discovery of the mammalian egg and his contributions to the understanding of embryological development. In his later years, Baer would turn his attention to anthropological investigations, including the state of primitiveness of various races, and to geological studies, especially in Russia.
In the mid-sixteenth century, an ancestor of Karl Ernst von Baer emigrated from Prussia to Livonia, and one of that ancestor’s descendants bought an estate in Estonia during the mid-seventeenth century. He was made a member of the Prussian nobility, and by the time of Karl’s father, Magnus Johann von Baer, the estate at Piep was of modest size. Karl’s father was trained in law and served as a public official. Karl’s parents were first cousins, and they had seven daughters and three sons. Because of the large size of the family, Karl was sent to live with his father’s childless brother and wife on a nearby estate. It was there that Karl began to cultivate his love of botany and natural history.
He entered medical school at the University of Dorpat in 1810 but apparently never planned on a medical career. Instead, upon graduation, he continued his studies in Berlin, Vienna, and finally Würzburg. There he studied under the anatomist Ignaz Döllinger, a disciple of the German Romantic Friedrich Schelling, and was inspired to...
(The entire section is 1974 words.)
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